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Difficulty II-IV(V+)
Length 2.1 Miles
Flow Range 600 - 5000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 51 minutes ago ~ 34.3 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 11/21/2010 1:13 pm

River Description

Scott Run is a small, steep park-&-huck. As with many small steeps, scout for wood before running it.


Scott Run - McLean, Virginia
February 23, 2003

After having driven over Scott Run on Georgetown Pike for years and never having seen any significant water in the streambed, I finally had the chance to run this small, urban creek. Scott Run drains the Tyson's Corner watershed which includes both malls and all of the commercial businesses in the area. Thus, the water contains a lot of pollutants. However, the water appeared to be much cleaner than nearby Difficult Run. With such a small watershed, this may be the most difficult of the local creeks to catch with water. We ran Scott Run the day following 2.6" of local heavy rain falling on 24" of recent snowfall. The level had been much higher the day before as indicated by the melted snow along the banks.

We parked at the Fairfax County Park Authority trailhead off of Georgetown Pike and hiked upstream along Swinks Mill Road to where Scott Run crosses under the road. This made for a run of a little more than a mile and added a couple of fun class III drops. The nature of the creek was continuous class II boogie water separated by at least ten distinct class III technical rapids until you reached the gorge. The creek had an average width of 15-20', but necked down significantly at each of the rapids. A typical rapid narrowed to 10' in width as the current cut diagonally left or right around large boulders with a total drop of a couple of feet. This made for some delightful, technical paddling. There was a large boulder sieve rapid about halfway through the run that was the exception to the rule. The boulders formed a dam that crossed the entire stream and at the flow we ran the creek provided a rocky route on the left or right. It made for an abrupt drop of three to four feet. There were also two concrete pedestal bridge crossings that were just below water level that required some creative navigating. You could turn your boat on edge and squeeze through one of the gaps if you didn't mind leaving a little plastic behind or portage around them.

Once you reach the gorge, the nature of the creek changes dramatically. The creek drops at an approximate gradient of 250' per mile in the next eighth of a mile as you enter this tight, mini gorge. When the creek takes a sharp turn to the right get out and scout the rest of the run on river left. The gorge is difficult to scout from shore because of shear rocks lining the banks and steep hills climbing two hundred feet on either side. To complicate matters, there was a foot of snow on the ground the day we ran it. The creek narrows down to 10-15' in width as it plummets over boulder piles and ledges on its way to the Potomac River. Eddies abound and the drops can all be boat scouted, but it would be wise to make sure there are no trees below the drops before committing The entrance rapid can be entered on the right or left. Either side requires some technical moves to avoid broaching on the numerous rocks. Either way you choose there are at least two must make moves to navigate this rapid. The entrance drops about seven feet in the span of about fifteen linear feet. The next rapid is a boulder drop of about three feet that can be run anywhere. The run out of the boulder drop brings you to the next ledge drop that abruptly drops four feet. A large boulder separates the flow and has a good sized pillow on the upstream edge. The right side is a more straight forward drop with the left being more technical. One person in our group briefly broached on the upstream edge of the boulder. This leads directly into the next broken ledge that was run on both the left and right. The total drop was about five feet. The right side of the drop had plenty of pinning potential and almost flipped me on my first run. The left required catching an eddy just above the drop and ferrying through the rapid from left to right while avoiding the pinning rocks and holes below. Both sides were fun. The next drop was divided by another boulder mid-stream with the right being an abrupt four-foot drop and the left was a narrower slot that landed on a rock. Ten feet further downstream the creek dropped over a six-foot ledge through a five foot wide slot. The water landed on a flat rock on the right side of the landing zone so a move at the top from right to left was necessary. This deposited you in the only sizable eddy in the gorge that served as our take-out.

The creek continued through three more rapids in the next twenty-five feet and dropped another twenty feet. The creek necked down to six feet in width and moved right to left over a boulder field before rebounding off a large boulder and moving left to right over another ledge. Then the water rebounded off the right side gorge wall and formed a flume that fed directly into a fifteen-foot waterfall. The waterfall was runnable, but the landing zone is in the backwater of the Potomac River which was shallow and landed on rocks. The Potomac River would need to be at least 7' on the Little Falls gauge to pad out the landing zone.

The day we ran Scott Run, the gorge section would rate class IV with the waterfall and its entrance rapid being class V. The difficulty would certainly increase with more water. This is a unique paddling experience for the metropolitan Washington area. The only drawback is hiking the mile back to the putin with a forty-pound boat on your shoulder.

-- John Alden

Erik Amason:

Scott Run has been paddled for at least the last 5 or 6 years, but I don't think many people have had a chance to run the bottom falls, which is the crown jewel of the run. 4/2/05 Scott ran with the unique combination of a good flow in the creek with higher flows on the Potomac river creating a much more friendly (yet smaller) waterfall into a nice deep landing delta into the Potomac. It can be run at higher flows when the river is low and the falls go onto the rocks down the middle. This is when the falls are bigger in height and are most challenging, ranging into the higher class-five realm. It is usually a full-on 18-foot fall with a good flow going over it. It is run from the left of the intrence chute pushing of the right side wall. You must keep a lot of left angle and stay left, taking a big boof stroke off the lip for a nessacary flat landing in the three-foot-deep boat-sized landing pool left of the rocks down the center.
I personally don't know of anyone out there that has run the falls with the river low other then myself; but it is definitely runnable and more challenging then, than at higher Potomac flows. The creek, for the most part, is a park-and-huck with its short distance and few, yet high quality, drops. Click here for video.

Rapid Descriptions


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Attention Virginia Boaters!

Jason Robertson

During the high waters of Spring 2003, there has been a noticeable increase in reported confrontations between boaters and property owners in Virginia. Please remember to be respectful and courteous to property owners; do not trespass; and avoid confrontation in order to preserve access in the future.

Stephen J. Ettinger


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1193731 05/11/05 Stephen J. Ettinger n/a
1198725 11/21/10 Matt Muir edited gauges